Yes, the major cable companies are losing paid television subscribers and yes, they have stunningly low customer satisfaction ratings. But as The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson ably explains, they aren’t going anywhere because they’re still making money hand over fist providing home broadband connections to tens of millions of households. Essentially, cable companies have been losing TV subscribers since the 1990s but have more than made up for this lost revenue by increasing their total number of Internet subscribers and squeezing more monthly revenue out customers “both by charging more for television and by getting households to buy more than just TV,” Thompson writes. More →
ABC isn’t taking kindly to Hulu subscribers who are watching its shows online instead of paying for monthly cable services. The New York Times reports that ABC, which is owned by Walt Disney, has decided to yank newer episodes of its shows off both the free version of Hulu and its own homepage and will instead put them on its mobile app that is only accessible to cable subscribers. The network says that it’s created its own in-house streaming app to better adapt to customer preferences by giving users access to its content on all their portable devices. ABC plans to roll out the app in six different cities over the summer.
Are you fed up with paying an $80 cable bill every month for dozens of channels that you never even watch? Not to worry, says National Cable and Telecommunications Association chief Michael Powell: You’re actually being given “unparalleled choice” in your programming. Variety reports that Powell, speaking on Tuesday at a Senate subcommittee meeting to discuss the benefits of “a la carte” cable programming, said that it’s a “very serious question mark whether consumers would have lower bills or cheaper service as a result of a la carte” because consumers may end up having to pay the same amount for fewer channels. Powell also said that it would be a mistake to make significant revisions to the 1992 Cable Act because it “could even be counterproductive by introducing uncertainty and displacing or skewing the marketplace rivalries” that offer “unparalleled choice” to cable subscribers. More →
How much do consumers dislike cable providers’ bundling practices? So much that even Time Warner Cable’s CEO has started to publicly fret about a backlash. Republican Senator John McCain is determined to do something about overly expensive cable bundles, however, and AllThingsD reports that he’s pushing legislation that would “force pay TV operators to break up the programming bundles, by offering channels in smaller groups or on an individual basis.” While this sounds good at first, AllThingsD points out that it may not do much to lower consumers’ monthly bills since popular cable stations such as ESPN are subsidized by less popular stations. Thus, if cable providers are forced to offer channels individually then ESPN could charge around $20 a month for a standalone subscription.
Survey after survey shows that America’s major cable companies are among the least-liked businesses in the United States, but The Houston Chronicle’s Dwight Silverman sees hope for everyone out there who wants to watch top-notch programming without overpaying for cable television. Silverman notes that once Comcast (CMCSA) boosted his speeds for Internet service, he found that he could more easily rely on third-party over-the-top providers such as Netflix (NFLX), Hulu Plus and Amazon (AMZN) Instant Video to get his television fix for a fraction of what he was paying for his AT&T (T) U-Verse television service. More →
Traditional cable-based TV providers saw their share of the pay-TV market decline in 2012 as Internet-based TV services offered by companies like Verizon (VZ) and AT&T (T) grew more popular, according to a new report. Market research firm ABI Research says that as a whole, the global pay-TV industry generated $238 billion in revenue last year. That figure is up from $223 billion in 2011 and is expected to continue growing to $304 billion in 2018. Cable companies’ share of the market dropped to 47% in 2012 from 48.5% in 2011 however, as IPTV services saw their share grow to 11.5% in 2012, up from 10% in the prior year. ABI analyst Khin Sandi Lynn notes that Verizon was the top IPTV provider in 2012 in terms of revenue.
The option to save money on pay-TV service by choosing channels a la carte instead of paying for a package of channels that go mostly unwatched has been cable subscribers’ collective dream for years. Following comments from three cable company executives made during a panel at CES 2013, however, it appears as though an a la carte option will remain a dream for years to come. More →
If you’re unhappy with your cable service, you aren’t alone. And according to Susan Crawford, a communications policy expert and a professor at the Cardozo School of Law, America’s cable companies aren’t just guilty of charging higher prices for sub par service, but also of stifling competition and innovation in the United States broadband market. In an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm, Crawford makes the case that “a handful of cable companies have become monopolies that stifle competition and innovation,” which is a major reason “why Americans pay more money for worse Internet service than consumers in most other developed nations.” More →
More than 400,000 American homes have cut the cord and ditched their cable and satellite pay-TV services since the start of 2012. The figure includes 169,000 subscribers shed by Time Warner Cable (TWC) last quarter, marking the service provider’s tenth consecutive quarter of customer losses. It also includes the 52,000 net subscribers DirecTV (DTV) lost this past quarter, and 176,000 customers who left Comcast (CMCSA). Reuters points to high unemployment rates, a weak housing market and regular programming factors as key contributing factors for the drop, but other factors may include the increasing amount of available Web-based content and high costs of cable and satellite-based TV service. A report from earlier this year suggested that more than 1 million U.S. households disconnected their pay-TV services in 2011.
Yes, Google Fiber is only being launched in Kansas City so far. And sure, there’s not much hope that it will spread across the entire country for the near future. But that doesn’t mean Google’s (GOOG) insanely fast 1Gbps fiber network shouldn’t be pushing cable companies and other ISPs to up their games in terms of both service quality and pricing. More →
It seems that a good number of people who have unsubscribed from cable or satellite television services never want to go back. According to a new survey released Tuesday by deal-aggregation website TechBargains.com, 33% of cable and satellite subscribers who have cut the cord say they will never go back even if service providers “drastically” reduce their prices. The survey also found that 83% of people who have ditched cable or satellite have done so due to high cost, while 17% of people who ditched their service did so because they were unhappy with the service or content provided. In all, 52% of the people surveyed were current cable subscribers, 19% were current digital satellite subscribers and 29% were former subscribers of cable or satellite. Hit the jump for the full release. More →
More than 1 million cable television subscribers in the United States canceled their service in 2011, opting instead for online films and TV shows available through services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. Nearly 2.65 million cable or satellite TV subscribers have canceled their service since 2008 to rely solely on Web-based services according to estimates from the Convergence Consulting Group. “It’s pretty obvious that there’s actual cord-cutting going on in the U.S.,” Brahm Eiley, president of Convergence Consulting, said in an interview with Bloomberg. The firm warns that the pace of defections may slow this year, however, as content providers tighten online access to shows and increase prices. It is estimated that roughly 930,000 customers will cut the cord in 2012, for a total of 3.58 million subscribers since 2008. The group also estimates that traditional television providers will add 185,000 accounts this year, up from 112,000 in 2011. More →
On Tuesday, a report surfaced claiming Netflix was in talks with some of the largest cable companies in the U.S. to discuss integrating the company’s streaming product into cable services. The report stated that at least one cable provider was considering the launch of a trial run before the end of the year. Comcast, however, will not be that company, FierceCable reported. “We have no plans to offer access to Netflix to our customers through our Xfinity TV service, no matter what device,” Comcast spokeswoman Alana Davis said. The cable company recently launched “Streampix,” a subscription video service that competes with Netflix, allowing Xfinity subscribers to access TV series and movies from PCs and mobile devices. More →